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Reader Ben bought an old McLaren 540C and spun it for profit during lockdown. What other Covid bargains exist?
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4 mins read
9 March 2021

It’s always nice to hear from Autocar readers; to hear about their cars, their buying and selling experiences, and just what they think is going on in our little bubble. Ben isn’t a dealer, but he got a bit bored at home during lockdown so “swapped out the family fleet”.

Let’s get your full attention with a McLaren. “I bought a 540C from a main dealer just after we left the first lockdown, because dealers were desperate to sell,” says Ben. “It seems a lot of people were keen to buy, too, with a changed mindset about enjoying life in the moment. I sold it to a trader five months and 4000 miles later for more than I paid.”

Ben is indeed correct: there is the odd Mac on sale. I spotted one in a suburb of London where a private-hire Toyota Prius, not a 540C, is the usual ride. Anyway, a five-owner privately offered 2016 example with a sub-20,000-mile reading, it was up for £73,000. I didn’t much fancy it, given that it was squeezed onto the concreted frontage of a terraced house. And especially not when I can go to a dealer down the road and get a 2016 car with a full history and 23,000 miles for £79,995.

According to Ben, “decent Ford Mustang V8 GTs seem to have settled at a minimum of £26,000-£27,000 and are a lot of car for the money”. He goes on: “I just bought a Competition Orange Mustang with 4500 miles and five Ford stamps in the book, in mint condition, for £27,000. I was hankering after an Aston Martin V8 Vantage, but the same price buys one 20 years older, with higher parts and running costs plus 20,000 miles.”

Absolutely: I made the point recently that a Vantage or DB9 is surely going to cause you a lot more financial grief than a fairly straight-forward Ford. I found a very clean one-owner 2016 Mustang V8 with just under 15,000 miles for £26,950.

Ben also reckons that the R231-generation Mercedes-Benz SL is in reasonable supply. He says: “There are some bargains about, especially 350s. I paid £24,000 privately for a one-owner, mint-condition, 65-plate 400 AMG with a full service history and 23,000 miles. It feels real value for money currently. I’m told it has simpler suspension and is the first without roof-leak issues… We’ll see.”

Just in case you wondered whether Ben also dabbles in tiddlers, he says: “Decent Volkswagen Ups seem to have bottomed out at £4000. The Up is great little car to drive, but for a similar price the current Citroën C1, Peugeot 108 and Toyota Aygo triplets will be two or three years newer and lower mileage. They drive equally well and are dependable.”

Tales from Ruppert's garage

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Car review

It might be the entry-level McLaren, but the 540C feels no less complete or exhilarating on the road than the firm's brilliant 570S

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Porsche Cayenne, mileage - 110,288: I hadn’t intended to update you on the Flying Pig this week, but unfortunately the Lorry refused to fire. Yes, it has just had a brand-new battery and I have been using it, but a few days off then super-sub-zero temperatures and a dumping of snow combined to knock the old girl out of the game. Indeed, when I hoofed open the bonnet, there was a ton of snow under there that I had to dig out – hardly surprising for an almost-pensionable Land Rover. Meanwhile, the Porsche has been epically competent during the big freeze: warm, comfortable, practical and with not a hint of slip on sheet ice or packed snow.

Reader's ride

Suzuki Jimny: Thanks to Keith for this story: “My wife and I bought a new Suzuki Jimny for her business in 2012 at £13,500, regularly serviced it and kept it under guarantee, and then we sold it last November for £10,500. Apart from the wiper blades, everything was original. It had only done 13,600 miles but, still, that’s what we call value for money up here in Yorkshire. It never gave so much as a murmur of a problem and had bags of character. I can see the attraction – not for a motorway trip or on poor surfaces in town, but it’s unstoppable in the rough!”

Readers' questions

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Question: My garage has quoted a huge bill for a failed steering pump. Can I soften the blow by sourcing a second-hand replacement part myself? Lara Hodgson, Teignmouth

Answer: Some faults are far pricier to fix than others, so you might find the repair cost outweighs the value of your car. In this instance, the bulk of the bill is likely to be related to labour costs, rather than the part, so we wouldn’t expect a huge saving, even if you could persuade the garage to use your own parts. Most garages refuse to fit customer-sourced parts, because they can’t guarantee the quality (particularly with second-hand items) and don’t want to be held accountable for any issues that might arise later. If you can’t afford the bill or fix it yourself, consider selling the car for spares or repairs. FP

Question: I love the refinement of my Audi A6 but no longer need such a big, expensive car. Are there smaller plush motors for £15,000? Will Davidson, Manchester

Answer: You’re in luck: that budget covers a 67-plate Mk1 Audi A1 in sporty S line guise and with the 123bhp 1.4-litre turbo petrol motor that we marked out as the best all-rounder. It’s basically a baby A6. A nearly new Volkswagen Polo is within grasp, too. We found a 70-plater with just 100 miles on the clock, although it had a manual gearbox; automatics in your budget are from 2019 or earlier. At just £13,000, you could even bag a 2017 Mini Cooper S with all the bells and whistles, including an electric sunroof. FP

READ MORE

James Ruppert: Turn left for huge savings 

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James Ruppert: Dream bangers for dream prices

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Chris C 9 March 2021

Power steering pump. Find out what the garage are charging for the pump itself and get an alternative quote for supply and fit from an independent marque specialist who might know the tricks of getting a pump out and possibly even repairing it without major vehicle dismantling.

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